Penguin Random House Library Award for Innovation

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While you’re in that state of mind – Penguin Random House is offering yet another opportunity to receive new books for your library.

Last year, the publisher and its foundation piloted the Penguin Random House Library Award for Innovation. Its intent is to acknowledge and elevate libraries that have overcome noteworthy hardships (budget cuts, overall economic conditions, natural disasters, etc.).

Emphasis is given to applicants who can demonstrate (1) a successful track record for community collaborations, (2) a sustained dedication to reaching and nurturing new readers within their community, or (3) a commitment to innovative practices and programs in spite of hardships.

Four runners-up will receive $1,000 in books from Penguin Random House. One grand prize winner will receive a $10,000 cash prize. Applications are due Tuesday, February 4. Winners will be notified by May. Visit their website to learn more!

Favorite 'Mini-Grant' Program Returning In 2020

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Speaking of revamped websites, NLLD is not the only one to boast a new and expanded online presence this year. The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation – administrator of the ever-popular Keats mini-grant program – also has a new site, just in time for the 2020 cycle.

Named after the bestselling and Caldecott Award- winning illustrator, this Foundation offers 70 annual “mini-grants” to public libraries and schools, to put on whatever children’s program they desire. Since the Foundation’s inception, the program has awarded nearly $1,000,000 – that’s a lot of mini-grants!

Need inspiration? The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation’s recently remodeled
 website is chock full of replicable examples. For instance, the most recent Minnesota grantee (Beaver Lake Education Center in Maplewood) self-published a “collage homage” of a favorite Keats book, by having each classroom contribute a page in a different artistic medium (paper mache, oil paints, etc.)

Mini-grants are capped at $500. Applicants seeking consideration in 2020 should submit their materials online by March 31, 2020.
 Click here to learn more.

Note: Friends of the Library organizations are ineligible for this program unless partnering directly with their affiliated Library. If, for whatever reason, this presents an issue for your hoped-for program, consider MALF’s own
 Chris D. Olson Event & Programming Grant as an alternative!

"Books for Babies" Invites Friends of the Library Partners

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You’re never too young to be a user of, and lover of, your library. In this spirit, United for Libraries invites Friends groups to partner on its impactful and long-running Books for Babies program in 2020. 

What’s it all about? In brief, the Books for Babies team assembles inexpensive “gift kits” specially tailored to parents of newborns. Contents include an informational booklet and brochures on developing early literacy skills, one or several “Baby’s First Book” boardbooks, a bib, and “Baby’s First Library Card” (to be exchanged for the real thing at your local branch!)

How do these kits get into the hands of new and expectant parents? Organizations (typically but not exclusively Friends of the Library) purchase a number of their choosing for their area. Many supplement the kit basics with more local resources: brochures and magnets promoting your library’s pertinent services, a calendar of upcoming storytime dates, a Friends membership flyer, etc.

The customizability options are nearly endless, but the objective remains the same: “encourage parents to engage in developmentally helpful literacy activities, and instill a love of libraries from a young age.” 
Click here to learn about package pricing (starting at $8/per), recommended distribution strategies, success stories, and more.

MALF Member Survey - Last Chance!

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Heartfelt thanks to the dozens of you who have taken time to fill out MALF’s online questionnaire. Your input has exceeded our expectations – both in terms of the sheer number of responses, and the frank, usable feedback we will be able to tap as our Board of Directors charts MALF’s future.

In light of this positive response, we are extending the survey window. You now have until Friday, November 15 to tell us: “How can we help you help your library?” (On average, respondents to date have taken 8-12 minutes on the questionnaire, so the time commitment is a modest one.) Click here to take part!

The Loft Offering 'Bring the Loft to You' Class Series

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We never tire of stories about Friends providing financial or organizational support to host programs – particularly programs that their library would not be able to offer without private support. In that spirit, we are excited to share word about The Loft Literary Center’s new traveling class circuit. Bring the Loft to You features more than 70 customizable programming opportunities. These range in focus and flavor from memoir writing and breaking into the publishing world, to blogging or writing compelling college essays.

Qualified instructors are eager to bring The Loft’s nationally reputed curricula to libraries, schools, workplaces and other venues beyond the Twin Cities. Visit their website to learn more, and to seek a quote. Price structures begin at just $250 per contract hour.

Giving Tuesday 2019 Is Fast Approaching

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November and December are a crucial time for any nonprofit’s fundraising efforts. According to one recent estimate, 30 percent of all charitable gifts are made in December alone.

Unfortunately, the corollary to this statistic is that nonprofits must compete with one another for notice and donor dollars during this key window. As an alternative (or supplement to) next week’s competitive Give to the Max Day – and in an effort to beat the glut of year-end communications your donors will doubtless receive from other organizations – consider Giving Tuesday.

Brainchild of the United Nations Foundation, Giving Tuesday falls the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and is intended as a charitable counterweight to the commercialism of Black Friday. Since its inception in 2012, nonprofit fundraising on this day has ballooned from < $20 million to upwards of $400 million.

Now a standalone organization with leadership support from the Gates Foundation, Giving Tuesday offers nonprofits of all types a valuable toolkit, communications templates, and other tips for making the most of this giving “holiday.”  

Last year, dozens of Friends of the Library groups – from Jacksonville, Florida to Lansing, Michigan, to Redding, California – got in on the action. There is still time to make plans before the eighth annual Giving Tuesday on Tuesday, December 3. You can
 click here to learn more!

Give to the Max Day 2019

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Last year, Friends from Duluth to Rochester and many points in between raised thousands of dollars as part of Minnesota’s unofficial giving holiday, Give to the Max Day. In total, donors raised a whopping $21 million for nearly 5,500 good causes.

Don’t leave your slice of the pie behind for Give to the Max Day 2019!
 Registering your nonprofit is easy; but you will want to do so well ahead of the big day, November 14. Many donors select their favorite causes and pre-schedule their gifts ahead of time. Registering also puts your Friends in contention for “golden tickets” -- $500 bonuses given by lottery to participating organizations. Additional tips and tricks for coordinating a successful GTTM campaign (including promotional tools and workshop opportunities) are available here.

Happy National Friends of Libraries Week

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October 20-26 marks National Friends of Libraries Week (NFLW). Now in its 14th year, this annual celebration of Friends is sponsored by the American Library Association but powered by you. Ways to observe NFLW are as many and varied as Friends’ valued contributions to their libraries. In recent years, we have heard of bookmark design contests, in-library scavenger hunts -- and taking the cake, pun intended, on-site baking demonstrations by local cookbook authors.

Odds are, if you are choosing to partake, your own celebration will not be quite so imaginative (or messy). Fundraisers, membership drives, and recognition ceremonies are far more common Friends of Libraries Week tie-ins. (
Click here for ideas, plus ready-made graphics and a host of other resources.)

Regardless of what you do, the American Library Association wants to hear about it! United for Libraries – the Friends arm of ALA – will award two monetary grants to participating organizations through it’s National Friends of Libraries Week Award contest. While innovation is looked upon favorably, visibility and results are more important still.
 Click here to apply. Be sure to do so by December 10.

Help Us Help You Help Libraries!

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Public libraries are constantly evolving, and it is incumbent on Friends of the Library to change with the times as well. With this in mind, the board of the Minnesota Association of Library Friends likes to “step back” periodically to reevaluate our services and organizational priorities.

At its core, MALF exists to serve you – Friends at the local level. We would greatly appreciate your candid feedback on this brief survey. Please participate by November 4. And if we could ask for just one further favor... please share the link with your Friends network!

Minnesota's Largest Friends Author Gala

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Looking for something else to do in October? Opus & Olives, the marquee author gala of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, is slated for Sunday, October 13. Hollywood actress Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek, Orange is the New Black) will emcee a night headlined by New York Times bestsellers Mark Bowden, Jennifer Chiaverini, and Chris Pavone – and breakout newcomer Maaza Mengiste. Click here for information on venue and tickets.

Author luncheons and galas are an increasingly popular Friends fundraising platform. Inspired to research your own? Consider exploring the Center for the Book’s new
 Minnesota Writers Directorywhich lists authors alongside details on appearances and engagements they will consider.

A Grand Day For Grand Rapids!

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Friends of the Grand Rapids Area Library had a grand day indeed last Thursday, October 19. During the long-awaited MLA Conference in Prior Lake, representative Mary Jo Wimmer came away with the top prize in MALF’s annual Evy Nordley contest. It was no mean feat, either; MALF fielded a higher than average number of project entries from across Minnesota in the 2019 cycle.

Grand Rapids’ show-stopping project, “Pop-Up Book Sales,” stood a cut above the rest due to its innovative nature and great promise as both a sustainable and replicable fundraising model.

The reasoning behind organizers’ departure from the tried-and-true book sale model is simple yet profound. Over the past decade, reading habits have changed for a significant slice of bibliophiles. In this era of e-readers, trekking to the library or book store is no requirement – you can find materials from the comfort of your couch. With grassroots initiatives like Little Free Libraries, physical books and serendipitous discovery are attainable close to home, as well.

Pop up sales, held in a nontraditional (read “non-library”) location, seemed like a logical enough extension on the trends.

Click here to read more about this project, and the runners-up from Austin (“Murder Mystery at Hormel Historic Home”), Brainerd (“Little Free Library Partnership”), and Red Wing (“Telling Our Library’s Story”).

Megan Smolenyak Offers No-Gimmick Genealogy Grants

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In many communities, the public library is not just the best, but the only place to turn for research on local history and family genealogy. Unfortunately, maintaining and building upon existing genealogy collections is extremely challenging for many libraries, given the many competing demands on their strained budgets.

If this conundrum describes you, acclaimed genealogist, bestselling author and television personality Megan Smolenyak wants to hear from you! For nearly twenty years, Smolenyak has offered quarterly grants to museums, libraries, and other institutions requiring seed funds to kickstart a genealogy project or initiative.

Named after her mother, the so-called Seton Shields Genealogy Grant is refreshingly broad in its scope! However, proposals that are innovative in nature or offer a project model which other libraries would find replicable are particularly competitive.

Applicants are accepted on a rolling basis, with between one and three grant recipients selected quarterly. Amounts given differ based on demonstrated need. Click here to apply, or here to read up on the 213 grantees selected by Megan Smolenyak to date!

2019 MALF Workshop: Reserve Your Spot!

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Registration is now open for our 2019 workshop series, "Storming the Forts: Library Service on the Move." Click here for program details. 

All three sessions are free to attend, and it is not necessary for you to be a member of MALF or any Library Friends organization to do so. A complimentary lunch will be provided at each location. (Registration is required, to ensure the appropriate number of lunches and informational packets. Please do so by Thursday, September 26.)

Thursday, October 3

Fergus Falls Public Library
205 E. Hampden Ave., Fergus Falls, 56537

Friday, October 4
Ramsey Co. Library - White Bear Lake
2150 2nd St., White Bear Lake, 55110

Saturday, October 5
Marshall-Lyon Co. Library
201 C. St., Marshall, 56258

Evy Nordley Candidate Profile #10: Friends of the St. Peter Library

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In 1998, the town of Saint Peter suffered wide-ranging damage in one of the most devasting tornadoes to hit Minnesota in living memory. Among other casualties, the town lost its historic downtown library facility. For years after the so-called Comfrey - Saint Peter tornado, patrons resorted to using a FEMA trailer set up on the property to pick up and return books.

strands.jpgNeedless to say, residents were elated when a new, 16,400-square-foot library finally opened to the public four years later. Moreover, the facility offered a variety of amenities and aesthetic advantages that its predecessor did not. More windows and copious amounts of natural light rank high among these.

Last year, The Friends of the Saint Peter Public Library gifted their library a one-of-a-kind colored glass mosaic to accentuate that natural asset. Titled “Strands of Knowledge,” the 23-piece work of art now graces the library’s expansive entryway.

The Friends landed on this beautification project in consultation with lead librarian Doug Wolfe and a special entryway enhancement committee established for just this discussion.

nicollettco.pngAfter some preliminary due diligence research, the group selected Saint Peter-based glass artist Bob Vogel to design Strands of Knowledge. Vogel’s striking commercial work can be seen across Minnesota – at a college in Mankato, hospital in Slayton, and churches dotted across the state.

For his hometown library, Vogel chose a colorful double helix design that symbolically links knowledge, books and art. Library staff landed on the apropos name.

Design and fundraising work began in earnest in January 2018. “Expenses for this project really involved only three entities: the artist, the installer, and the engraver for the recognition plaque,” explained project lead Margie Nelsen. “For this reason, it was possible to get reasonable and precise installation costs early.”

The Friends, who committed themselves at the onset to cover the entire project fee (minus only a small public stipend from the City), brainstormed on how to reach the $13,000 target required by Strands of Knowledge. Helpfully, the group was able to get nearly halfway there by reallocating $7,000 from its general operating budget.

For the remainder, Friends leadership adopted an internal, versus external approach. Instead of a general, city-wide call to action, the campaign focused on the organization’s general membership. In all, 35 different members raised $4,045 collectively. A generous, $1,500 match grant offered by another Friend allowed the campaign to hit its goal.

Installation occurred before year’s end, in time for a November 28, 2018 dedication ceremony. The Friends spent $60 to prepare and mail special invitations to city councilmen and other public officials.

“The value or effectiveness of this type of project is always difficult to measure,” noted Margie Nelsen. “However, we’ve received nothing but positive feedback about the beauty and appropriateness of this new addition to the Saint Peter Public Library.” Indeed, some visitors stroll in for the express purpose of glimpsing Strands of Knowledge!

Evy Nordley Candidate Profile #9: Friends of the Brainerd Public Library (No. 2 of 2)

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As parents everywhere can attest, getting children to behave in a restaurant setting can be an iffy proposition. Most eateries offer crayons to keep little ones occupied throughout the meal, but what if they could provide something more?

The Friends of the Brainerd Public Library recently asked themselves this very question.

LYRbhXgo.jpgWhile it may seem out of left field, the restaurant sphere is actually one that The Friends is coming to know well. Over the past couple of years, they have partnered with Brainerd-based 3 Cheers Hospitality on their tremendously successful Books, Burgers and Brews (BBB) programming series. BBB is a play on the traditional book club, and features one-of-a-kind dishes specially designed by the head chef to pair with the book of the month.

In an extension on that existing partnership, Friends leadership approached the LLC about installing Little Free Libraries in its two most popular Brainerd Lakes establishments: Prairie Bay Grill in Brainerd and Sherwood Forest Lodge in nearby Nisswa.

Little Free Library, the nationwide “take a book, share a book” phenomenon, boasts more than 75,000 stalls. Founded by a Minnesotan in Hudson, Wisc., in 2009, our state is home to our fair share and then some. However, few if any Minnesota installations can currently be found in restaurants, according to the nonprofit’s website.

crowwingco.pngWhen approaching the restauranteur, The Friends pledged to keep both Little Free Libraries stocked with quality books sourced from their donated book inventory. Whenever either box ran low, the manager could simply call for a curated shipment of replacements.

In exchange, each kiosk would display a Friends decal reading “compliments of the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library” – along with a website URL and other basic information about the group.

3 Cheers Hospitality jumped at the opportunity. Thus far, The Friends have been asked to replenish the books at each approximately once a month! That is, if anything, a conservative assessment of the libraries’ popularity. According to staff, many families will borrow and enjoy a book for the duration of the meal, and return it right where they found it on their way out the door.

This is a good sign, to be sure; and the anecdotal evidence has been equally heartening. “We love hearing at our book sales how someone found their last great read at Prairie Bay, and learned about us and our events in the process,” said Friends president Sheila DeChantal.

3 Cheers Hospitality boasts half a dozen other restaurants in north central Minnesota, and The Friends are strongly considering doubling down on their Little Free Library initiative with a Phase 2 expansion.

Evy Nordley Candidate Profile #8: Grand Rapids Area Friends of the Library

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grandrapids.pngUsed book sales remain, hands down, the most popular and most visible type of Friends fundraiser. However, there’s plenty of room for experimentation with this tried-and-true favorite, as the Friends of the Grand Rapids Area Library can attest.

In November 2018, they held their first-ever pop up sale. The reasoning behind this move is both simple and profound.

Over the past decade, reading habits have changed for a significant slice of bibliophiles. In this era of e-readers, trekking to the library or book store is no requirement – you can find materials from the comfort of your couch. With grassroots initiatives like Little Free Libraries, physical books and serendipitous discovery are attainable close to home, as well.

Pop up sales, held in a nontraditional (read “non-library) location, seemed like a logical enough extension on the trend.

Organizers faced two questions at the onset: when, and where? The Friends ultimately landed on the first Saturday of November, because the date coincided with Itasca County’s deer hunting opener. Unsurprisingly, Grand Rapids sees steady visitor traffic that weekend. Moreover, the town typically hosts many small bake and craft sales that week, and a pop-up book boutique fit nicely with the tradition.

November also allowed The Friends to brand this inaugural pop-up event as a holiday kickoff, of sorts. The Friends stockpiled Christmas books all year long, ending up with 20 boxes chalk-full of seasonal cookbooks, children’s books, and craft manuals. Materials representing nearly all other genres rounded out the offerings nicely.

As advertised, the pop-up Holiday Book Boutique was there and gone in a flash. The short-term nature of the event added to the appeal; proceeds surpassed $1,200.

ttree2.jpgNot content to rest on their laurels, The Friends began planning for a follow-up as soon as the holiday season came to a close. Scheduled for May 2019, this second pop-up event was Earth Day themed. (After all, what is a used book sale, if not recycling in action?)

For this spring reprisal, The Friends worked with the City to rent the historic Old Central School in Grant Rapids’ downtown district. They received the short-term use free of any charge.

This second sale ran a scant three hours: from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Even in that short window, The Friends pulled in an impressive $800.

Secondary benefits from the pop-up format are no less noteworthy, shared Friends president Mary Jo Wimmer. “The one-day, pop-up nature of this sale seemed less overwhelming to volunteers.” For that reason, The Friends’ call to action attracted an entirely new pool of helpers. These included students from a local parochial school, who provided valued set-up assistance.

Wimmer is confident that some of these new volunteers will reappear. “Many viewed the pop-ups more as a community service, than a sale, because the prices are all kept so affordable… We think that’s exactly the right mindset.”

Evy Nordley Candidate Profile #6: Milaca Friends of the Library

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Located between Saint Cloud and Hinckley, the town of Milaca is home to 3,000. While the local Milaca Community Library is heavily used, only a handful of those residents counts themselves as a bona fide Friend of the Library. As is the case in so many communities of this size, the Milaca Friends of the Library are always on the lookout for ways to change this.

milaca.pngEarlier this year, they stumbled on a perfect – albeit outside-the-box – pretext to interface with patrons face to face and share information about The Friends and what they do. They capitalized on a little-known holiday called “National Donut Day.”

National Donut Day is a silly tradition with serious roots. The Salvation Army created it back in 1938, as a yearly memorial to the droves of volunteers who followed American troops to Europe in World War I to bake and distribute comfort foods to the Allied forces.

Creativity notwithstanding, what might be most impressive about Milaca Friends of the Library’s effort is the speed at which they put this in-library celebration together. “We’ve been looking for ways to expand our membership, and make more people aware of the group in general,” explained organizer Ardy Becklin.

“We’ve toyed with doing three or four pop-up events each year, [part informational, part thematic fun], in hopes of getting into a cycle where people begin to look forward to the next one.”

Once someone suggested National Donut Day as the perfect, quirky tie-in for the kickoff pop-up session, there were only a few weeks left to plan.

First and foremost, The Friends explored all their options for acquiring a mammoth order of doughnuts. After bulk discounts, they purchased more than enough for a mere $48 – the only monetary expense associated with this event, as it happened.

national-doughnut-day.pngWhile there was no time to explore the possibility of outside community partnerships, library staff pitched in in several ways. They promoted the event heavily, especially during Milaca’s popular summer reading events. Staff also helped make sure the Library looked appropriately “festive.” Any and all books about doughnuts – be they cookbooks or children’s materials – were pulled from the stacks for display.

The Friends added to the ambiance with a giant inflatable inner tube (of a doughnut, what else?), posters, and printouts of book passages pertaining to the confection (such as a detailed description of pioneers baking the treat in Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder).

When the big day – Friday, June 7 – came around, residents turned out in droves to learn about The Friends and indulge. This included a mix of patrons who had business at the library anyway, plus people who heard about it through grassroots promotions efforts.

Becklin says that the true impact of this event cannot be measured immediately. However, the experiment was promising enough that The Friends have already committed to doing subsequent pop-up, informational events in the near future.

Moreover, “all the doughnuts were picked up, which is surely a good sign!”

Evy Nordley Candidate Profile #5: Marine Library Association

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For nature science lovers, the area around Marine on St. Croix offers an embarrassment of riches. Located just south of the popular William O’Brien State Park along a scenic stretch of the St. Croix River, the township is home to the Minnesota chapter of Watchable Wildlife, a watershed research station, and the St. Croix River Association.

For their latest and greatest programming challenge, the Marine Library Association (MarLA) decided to lean into this strength by crafting a children’s nature science day camp. All activities and presenters drew from the impressive local resources already available in northern Washington County.

A team of six planners began preparations in February, in hopes of having an impressive curriculum – and a full class to enjoy it – by June. Registration opened almost immediately, in recognition of the fact that families begin plotting out their summer activities months ahead of time.

Next came presenter logistics. For special guests, the organizers tapped three local science teachers. They offered talks or demonstrations on solar energy, geology, and insects, respectively. In addition, a volunteer from the St. Croix River Association contributed a presentation on river health, and the nearby Warner Nature Center offered a popular program on reptiles and amphibians.

As a capstone experience, The Friends took their campers on a field trip to the Minnesota Food Association farm in Wilder Forest to learn about groundbreaking agricultural practices.

Even though the camp was new and the model untested, the inaugural Children’s Science and Art Camp reached capacity the same day registration opened to the public. Nearly all participants hailed from Marine or nearby Scandia.

The Friends felt that their camp was somewhat akin to a more traditional summer reading program – which the Library puts on at the same time. “We believe it is important to keep children active and learning during the summer months,” explained Board member Loralee DiLorenzo. 

Evy Nordley Candidate Profile #4: Friends of the Austin Public Library

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On January 26, 2019, the notorious Northern Austin Mob Outfit faced off against their bitter rivals – the South Side Gangsters – on the neutral ground of the Austin Public Library.

mowever.pngIf this sounds more like an old story ripped from a bygone headline, that’s because it is… sort of. The Friends of the Austin Public Library manufactured this confrontation as a plotline in its inaugural Murder Mystery Dinner fundraiser.

These two gang syndicates never really existed, but the storied Prohibition Era in which they operated certainly did. When the Board of the Friends first floated themes back in June 2018, the Roaring Twenties stood out as the perfect backdrop for this inaugural program.

For historical verisimilitude, as well as cost effectiveness, The Friends then sought a community partner to co-host this fundraiser. After exploring all options, they entered into an agreement with the Hormel Historic Home (HHH). Located five minutes down the road from the Library, this Italianate residence was once home to George Albert Hormel, founder of the Hormel Foods Corporation. It operates today as an independent not-for-profit.

The match-up seemed logical to The Friends. They already collaborated with the HHH on a monthly series, the aptly named History Happy Hour. Past offerings have ranged from evenings with the likes of author Walt Whitman and 1880s baseball legend Billy Sunday, to off-site excursions – including walking and bus tours.

For the Murder Mystery Dinner, the Hormel Historic Home agreed to wave venue rental fees and to assist with ticketing.

In order to populate this 1920s version of Austin, organizers then turned to the Mower County theatre community. Approximately twenty actors from the Summerset Community Theatre and Riverland Community College theatre department agreed to take part, free of charge.

In yet another move to control costs, The Friends opted to offer hors d’oeuvres in place of a full, plated dinner.

In a cheeky nod to Prohibition theme, they branded a cash bar as a speakeasy, and discreetly offered each attendee a teacup of champagne. The caterer not only played along, but offered The Friends a 20 percent discount off their services as a donation to the organization.


Tickets to the Murder Mystery Dinner sold out in less than two weeks, thanks in part to aggressive advertising supplied by the HHH. Radio promotions, plus a poster campaign around Austin, also played a role. All told, the night netted a profit of $923 to The Friends.

“The number one surprise was seeing how many people wanted to come again – and how many who didn’t attend and want us to do it again after hearing how much fun the night was,” said organizer Bethie Carlton.

They may indeed reprise the event at some point… which doesn’t augur well for the new and fragile accord between the Northern Austin Mob Outfit and South Side Gangsters!

Evy Nordley Candidate Profile #7: Friends of the Red Wing Public Library

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The Red Wing Public Library dates back, in some shape and form, to 1893. That original incarnation of the beloved public institution - much like the young river town itself - would be unrecognizable to modern denizens of Red Wing.

goodhue2.pngThe one-room library did not circulate its materials, and patrons were not allowed to browse the stacks. The sole staffer (paid $300/year in 1893 dollars) retrieved materials upon request. This made research inherently difficult, as the library lacked a card catalog to point them in the right direction. (However, a printed manifest was available, but only for purchase!)

In late 2017, the Board of Trustees approached the Friends of the Red Wing Public Library about collaborating on a historical project to profile this and the many subsequent chapters of the Library’s long history. In point of fact, background work for a hoped-for book had already commenced. However, the Library lacked the wherewithal to give the volume a professional veneer, acquire the rights to appropriate illustrations, and get it published.

After some back and forth, The Friends agreed to spearhead a special fundraising push to hire a research historian and shepherd the project to completion.

Phase I required collecting $2,500 to hire the needed contractual help. As a means to that end The Friends’ standing fundraising committee drafted a targeted mailing teasing the long, untold history of the library – and summarizing The Friends’ own long track record for championing value-added projects of exactly this sort. After expenses, this campaign netted $2,599.

redwing.jpgGoing a step further, The Friends also researched and interviewed potential historians, to find just the right partner for the book. Ultimately, they landed on Char Henn, a Red Wing local and director of the Red Wing Pottery Museum – a subject matter expert if ever there were one.

Galvanized by that early success, The Friends opted to continue their support of the publication project with a special event: a harvest-themed autumn tea party and silent auction. Keynoted by Ms. Henn and Minnesota romance writer Lizbeth Selvig.

Friends volunteers worked overtime to make the tea event as cost-effective as possible. Christ Episcopal Church, located down the street from the Library, offered their spacious dining room, kitchens, and A/V equipment free of charge. Local businesses supplied each of the auction offerings.

In lieu of working with an expensive off-site printer, The Friends convinced the Library to allow for flyers, invitations, and other promotional pieces to be printed in house on the facility’s own computers (with cost defrayed by The Friends). This cut down markedly on the print publicity budget.

"The overarching objective was to raise funds for writing and publishing our history of Red Wing Public Library. This was the promise we had made," reiterated project lead Lois Burnes.

"During the planning process, however, it became clear that this fundraising format could be repeated annually." They intend to do just that, with the proceeds benefitting their Library in other needed ways.

October 20-26 Marks National Friends of Libraries Week

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Between the annual MLA conference in September, MALF’s seasonal workshops in October, and Give to the Max Day in November, fall is going to be a busy time for Friends of the Library in Minnesota. Even so, it’s important to remember what is happening on the national stage, as well. October 20-26 is 2019 National Friends of Libraries Week!

Friends of Libraries Week is sponsored and coordinated by United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association and MALF’s national counterpart. Its two-fold purpose is to: (1) foster an environment conducive to promoting your Friends group and its projects, while also (2) offering an opportunity for your library, Board of Trustees and community officials to recognize your group for its ongoing support.

To these ends, United for Libraries has posted on its website a number of stories and downloadable resources to help you get started.
 Click here for posters, sample letters to the editor, template public proclamations, and much much more.

As those who have participated in previous years already know, this week-long celebration is an extremely customizable one. Apart from the overall mission sketched out above, appropriate ways to celebrate Friends of Libraries Week are nearly as many and varied as are Friends groups! In years past, these have ranged from the simple and straightforward, like week-long membership campaigns and fundraising drives, to the unexpected and sometimes 
wacky – like an in-library demonstration from a world champion chocolate strawberry dipper!

Evy Nordley Candidate Profile #3: Friends of the Brainerd Public Library (No. 1 of 2)

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For many, gift wrapping is an essential part of the Christmas experience. According to studies conducted by 3M and Hallmark, nearly $2.8 billion is spent on festive wrapping paper and related supplies each holiday season. On average, Americans self-report wrapping 15 gifts every year. One in four claims that gift wrapping even puts them more in the “holiday spirit” than shopping does!

crowwingco.pngThese same fun studies corroborate something most of us already know: While it’s a staple of the Christmas experience, many gift-givers procrastinate on shopping and wrapping until the very last minute.

With this paradox in mind, the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library decided to add a special spin and incentives to their 2018 open house.

As with any open house, core objectives included making residents aware of The Friends, and inducing at least a few to enlist. In this case, Friends who joined up (or renewed their membership) at the holiday open house received free on-site gift wrapping services.

In order to ensure that everyone had something to wrap, vice president Dawn Stattine worked out a partnership deal with children’s book publisher and distributor Usborne Books. Usborne set up shop at the Brainerd Public Library to sell an array of its bestselling titles.

Usborne’s offerings – which have a reputation for being colorful, durable and often interactive – drew parents and other shoppers to the Library who would not otherwise have attended a Friends open house, explained president Sheila DeChantal.

christmaspres.jpgThese efforts paid immediate dividends, and in several forms. More than 250 people attended the open house over its six-hour run. The Friends netted ten new members, and a further 17 members already in the fold took the opportunity to renew their commitment for the following year.

In addition, The Friends received a percentage from Usborne Books’s robust sales. Given the choice between a cash payout or a larger contribution paid out in new book stock, organizers chose the latter.

In this way, The Friends were able to donate $800 worth of new and in-demand materials to the Brainerd Public Library’s children’s collection. They ceded the responsibility of selecting the exact titles to the children’s librarian, who naturally knows the target audience best.

usbourne.pngThis high traffic, high impact event cost only $50 in general operating dollars. The bulk of that went towards refreshments. Friends members and other community boosters donated the wrapping paper, bows, tape and other supplies needed to equip the wrapping station.

While the organizers have not yet committed to an encore holiday event in 2019, it’s certainly on the table. “We had a ‘wrap up’ meeting (pardon the pun!) at our next board meeting, and all felt overwhelmingly positive about the experience,” DeChantal said.

Evy Nordley Candidate Profile #2: Friends of the Blue Earth Community Library

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In late 2017, a photography enthusiast in Blue Earth unexpectedly “gifted” the local library 42 boxes of historic negatives and proofs. Although the Blue Earth Community Library lacked the funds and staffing bandwidth to do anything meaningful with this treasure trove, leadership desperately hoped to do something with the unique windfall. The Friends answered that call, and far exceeded the Library’s expectations for what could or should be done with these artifacts.


Beginning in January 2018, four intrepid volunteers began the arduous process of sifting through the 30,000 proofs and negatives contained in those boxes. Most were housed in aging envelopes, nearly all of which had faint or otherwise indecipherable handwriting. After a few weeks, the team could boast a (more or less) complete inventory and accurate classification scheme.

The Friends were committed not just to finding a home for these photographs, but the best home for each. Fortunately, the lead volunteers were well positioned to accomplish this. As long-time Blue Earth residents, they were able to identify people, locations and events beyond the barebones information available from photo captions. They often knew personally, or else knew how to reach, the appropriate next of kin.

Furthermore, two of the project managers also co-lead a popular local genealogy group (which goes under the tongue-in-cheek name Dead Relatives Society). This enabled The Friends to tap into a still larger brain trust to make sense of the 42 boxes – which represented the combined holdings of not one or two, but eight different defunct photo studios.

bleuearth.JPGThis front-end work, which was daunting enough on the face of it, was made more difficult still by a self-imposed February deadline. The Friends chose this timetable so that they could promote the rehousing project during their ever-popular Friends Valentine Tea. As part of that event, guests were invited to go into a back room and hunt for photos featuring relatives and old friends.

Similarly, later in the year, The Friends promoted the photo project (eventually dubbed “The Negative Effect” with deliberate irony) at their yearly Wine Walk in downtown Blue Earth – plus at their twice-a-year used book sale. A glowing feature in the Faribault County Register created nice buzz, as well.

Although the materials were not assigned specific price points, the organizers strongly encouraged free will donations. In this way, the organization has raised $1,800 to date.

The Friends used those proceeds to purchase a sturdy metal cabinet to safely store the remnants of the photo collection. Money left over went towards handcrafted book display cabinets for the children’s section, plus a special grid system to hang promotional items in the library.

As it stands today, these diligent efforts have winnowed the 30,000 artifact collection down to just 10,500 proofs and negatives in need of a good home!

2019 I Love My Librarian Award: Submit Your Candidate Today!

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Posted by jim under Grants & Awards

Let’s face it. Your library can boast the best facility and collections in the world, but it all counts for little without top-notch staff. In recognition of this fact, the American Library Association created its popular “I Love My Librarian” campaign and award.


As the name suggests, this long-standing program recognizes the service of exemplary public, academic, or school librarians. Ten individuals are honored each year, and awarded $5,000 each (plus a travel stipend to attend a December recognition ceremony).

Click here to learn more, and to nominate someone. Be sure to do so before Monday, October 21. Note that applications must be submitted online, and in just one browsing session. (In other words, you cannot save and return to your work.) Your candidate must hold an MLIS degree from an ALA-accredited university, and be practicing in the field currently, in order to be eligible.

Pro Tips: Valuable application tips from ALA can be found here. And if you nominated a candidate in years past, you pull up and resubmit their application on the program website!

Evy Nordley Candidate Profile #1: Friends of the Cook Public Library

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Posted by jim under Evy Nordley Award; Grants & Awards

Across the country, more than 90 percent of public library facilities offer a dedicated teen space. For some, however, getting teenagers to actually visit and use that space is a perennial challenge. Last year, the Friends of the Cook Public Library landed on an innovative and decidedly memorable way to engage area teens with the library and its programming.

cook.jpgLet’s back up for a moment. Located 90 minutes north of Duluth and an hour from the Canadian border, the town of Cook is as isolated as any in Minnesota. This is doubly true during the long winter months. In order to help residents through the worst of the season, the Friends of the Cook Public Library collaborate with library staff on a so-called Adult Winter Reading Program. Typical events include author visits, movie screenings, and other logistically straightforward offerings.

For the 2018 finale, however, the Friends partnered with the library’s standing Teen Advisory Board on something entirely different. On March 8, these co-organizers invited patrons to a Roaring Twenties soiree – gone horribly wrong.

In the middle of the party (held at the library), one of the guests was “unexpectedly murdered.” Naturally, it then fell to the other attendees to discover whodunnit, and why!

Teen Advisory Board members, together with a few Friends and staffers, dressed the part and carried the night’s plot forward. Costumes and props, purchased inexpensively from the local thrift shop, added a sense of realism to their 1920s personas.

cookmoose.pngVisitors were encouraged to mingle with this cast of characters, asking questions and reconstructing the lead-up to the heinous crime. At the end of the night, the actors reenacted the scene point for point, allowing participants the gratification of knowing how close they were to the mark.

Lead librarian Crystal Phillips had sketched out the story line ahead of time, and made sure that each volunteer knew how they fit into the central narrative. “Crystal wanted to expand on that winter’s adult reading them of mystery books, and create a grand celebration to cap off the programming series,” explained Friends president Kathy Sacchetti.

The Friends supplied a budget of $200 for costumes, table decorations, and snacks. (They asked for and received additional refreshments as an in-kind donation.)

groupcook.jpgIn such a small town, The Friends felt it was a reasonable goal to reach everyone in the community with word of the murder mystery. If they didn’t succeed, they at least came close! In addition to social media and web promotions, they received nice coverage in the local Cook News Herald. For good measure, volunteers also conducted a good old-fashioned poster campaign across town. Word of mouth, plus a follow-up feature in the newspaper, continued the buzz after the fact.

“Staff received wonderful, positive remarks for weeks afterwards, and several people made it a point to say they wanted a sequel in 2019,” Sacchetti recalled. The Friends obliged in March 2019, with an even more ambitious premise: the murder of the titular Count of Monte Cristo of Alexandre Dumas fame!

2019 Evy Nordley Award: T-Minus Ten Days!

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Posted by jim under Grants & Awards

This e-newsletter doubles as our last chance to remind and encourage you to apply for the 2019 Evy Nordley Award. Applications must be received/postmarked by June 21.

While we can’t tell you what your odds of winning are, we can say with some certainly: better than you think. Over the past five years alone, at least two Friends of the Library groups wavered over whether even to take part, and came away with the top prize!

You may simply be too close to your project, or too aware of the challenges and shortcomings, to fully appreciate how impressive your latest Friends initiative really was. And what is there to lose? Applicants typically report that compiling materials and submitting a nomination takes them less than two hours.

Click here to learn more, and to apply. Remember, anything from innovative membership solicitations, to successful fundraising efforts, to a gangbusters book sale are eligible for Evy Nordley consideration.

MALF Welcomes Loretta Ellsworth

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MALF welcomes a new member to its board of directors this month: Loretta Ellsworth of Lakeville (Dakota County).

Ellsworth is the author of five books, including four young adult novels. Her adult debut, Stars Over Clear Lake, is an historical fiction romance set during World War II. It won her a host of honors, including ALA’s Notable Book designation, the Midwest Bookseller’s Choice Honor Award, and the Northeastern Minnesota Book Award (NEMBA).

Ellsworth is a former teacher, and holds a master’s degree in writing for children from Hamline University. She is a regular judge of the Minnesota Book Awards, and has also volunteers with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

Ellsworth has been involved with her local Friends of the (Lakeville) Heritage Library for fourteen years. Eleven years ago, she pioneered OneBook, OneLakeville, a hugely successfully community reads program which she continues to chair for the Friends today.

MALF’s mission work is board-driven, and a new recruit like Loretta is certainly something to celebrate. If you would like to consider contributing time and talents to bettering Friends and libraries in Minnesota, reach out to us at Our Nominating Committee would be delighted to talk over directorship, contributions to one of MALF’s working group, or some other role with our organization.

Scholastic Offering School Media Center Mini-Grants

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Posted by jim under Scholastic, James Patterson

As anyone working in the library field can tell you, school media centers are habitually underfunded. This is particularly true in inner city neighborhoods and poverty-stricken areas. Consequently, their collection development budgets tend to be quite tight.

If this is the case at your school, Scholastic Inc. wants to help. In partnership with New York Times bestselling author James Patterson, the publisher
is donating $1,250,000 to school library collection development. In all, 4,500 recipients will be chosen. Five hundred “new teachers” (defined as 0-3 years on the job) can win $500. An additional 4,000 teachers and school librarians will be awarded $250/each.

Applying is simple – truly, couldn’t be easier! All applicants are asked to do is verify their credentials and write 100 words on how a $250 or $500 donation would benefit their library and student body.
Click here for details.

Major Benefactor Citation: How Does It Work?

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Posted by jim under Awards & Grants

According to one estimate, Americans gave $410 billion in 2018. Those donors come from every stratum of society. Unsurprisingly, however, only a handful of patrons are in a position to give $10,000 or more to their favorite cause. Where these do exist, however, they should be recognized for their largesse and community spirit.  

united-for-libs.pngWith that in mind, United for Libraries (the Friends arm of the American Library Association) is offering members 

and non-members special ‘Major Benefactor Citations.’ This commendation is meant to acknowledge and honor outstanding library supporters, and to encourage others to follow their generous example.

The Major Benefactor Citation consists of a custom plaque for the benefactor, and another for the requesting Friends group. United for Libraries also provides recipients with a variety of informational sheets and promotions templates to build an event around the Citation and promote library giving.

In addition, all Major Benefactor Citation recipients are featured on the United for Libraries website and in a press release issued by ALA.

Monetary and in-kind contributions to library operations or programming are all eligible for this recognition. Click here for more information. 

"Sing Their Praises" - MCN Unsung Hero Award

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Every day, volunteers of all kinds work tirelessly, but without fanfare, to better their communities. They rarely receive the recognition that these selfless contributions deserve.

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits knows this. For the past four years, the organization has offered its prestigious Unsung Hero Award, “in acknowledgment of the recipient’s role in creating a positive impact on Minnesota.”

Candidates must be Minnesota residents, and self-nominations will not be accepted. Otherwise, eligibility criteria are few!

While the award is a competitive one, top prize includes $10,000 and a special recognition at MCN’s annual conference in Rochester in October.
 Click here to up on application procedures – and about 2015-2018 recipients, to better gauge if the colleague you have in mind would be competitive. Submit by Monday, May 27. As always, good luck!

While you’re at it: Be sure to submit your high achiever for MALF’s own Stand Up for Standout Friends. This Friends-specific recognition opportunity is open to all MALF member organizations. Click here to review recipient honors and application steps. Stand Up for Standout Friends submissions are due Friday, August 2.

Can Minnesota Claim America's 'Best Small Library'?

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Nestled in the heart of Appalachia, the three-branch Madison County Public Libraries system is one of the smallest in North Carolina. It is also, in many ways, the most impressive – this according to Library Journal, who named it the “Best Small Library in America” last year.

The reasons for Madison’s selection are many, but its programmatic achievements top the list. Last year, event and class attendance exceeded 16,000. That’s pretty astounding, for a library serving a population of only 21,000 (and which does so on a modest budget, to boot).

The annual ‘Best Small Library’ distinction is bestowed annually by Library Journal and Baker & Taylor. As the name suggests, its intent is to encourage and showcase the exemplary work of modestly-sized libraries. The winner receives $5,000, a
 feature story in Library Journal, and a number of other perks.

Do you feel that your Friends efforts contribute to making your local library the ‘Best’ of its kind? Consider nominating it for the 2019 award cycle, which runs from now to July 2.

Judging is based on a number of factors, including: creativity in developing and implementing replicable programming; volunteer support base; sustained cooperation with other community organizations; and evidence of the library’s long-standing value as a community center. Only public libraries with service populations under 25,000 are eligible for consideration.

For more information, including comprehensive judging criteria and step-by-step nomination instructions,
 visit Library Journal.

Evy Nordley Entries Due June 21

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Posted by jim under Grants & Awards

While you have awards on the mind, spare a thought for MALF’s own Evy Nordley Award for Best Project. Evy Nordley is one of only a handful of monetary prizes in the country earmarked specifically and solely for Friends of the Library efforts.

Top prize is $1,000, with first- and second- place runners-up each also receiving an honorarium. Finalists will also have an opportunity to share details about their outstanding library program, membership drive, fundraising campaign, or other initiative with peers at the 2019 Minnesota Library Association conference.

Click here to brush up on entry requirements and recommendations, and to download the 2019 nomination form.

Mark your calendars: Applications are due June 21. MLA 2019 will be held this year on September 19-20, at Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake. Registration and other conference details will follow early this summer.

April 'Quick Tip': TechSoup Webinars

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Public libraries are an ever-evolving community institution. And, just as libraries themselves must adapt with the times, so must we. This is often easier said than done, however.

Fortunately, TechSoup offers a comprehensive (and free!) library of
 recorded webinars to help Friends understand the latest charity trends, and to integrate best practices into their day-to-day operations. This archive truly runs the gamut – how to write a killer grant application, leverage social media for effective storytelling, migrate your Friends’ data to “the cloud,” and so much more. Each session is led by an industry expert, and runs between 30-60 minutes in length.

Not sure where to start? Look for the 
Categories menu option, and review the twenty topic areas TechSoup has to choose from.

MCN Invites 'Nonprofit Mission Award' Nominations

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Minnesota is home to more than 30,000 registered and active nonprofits.(1) Do the math, and that comes out to one charity for every 187 residents! With such a healthy, diverse philanthropic landscape, we're sure you'd agree that there is ample room for more than one charity recognition opportunity.

Here’s another one to add to your list. Between now and May 17, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits invites you to submit your organization for a 2019 Nonprofit Mission Award.

As that name suggests, the intent here is to elevate the work of Minnesota nonprofits who have done exemplary, impactful work – and over the past year, in particular. Grassroots efforts by local Friends of the Library are particularly suited to compete in the 
InnovationAdvocacyand Responsive Philanthropy categories.

Each has its own criteria, so be sure to read carefully. Submissions will be judged by the Council of Nonprofit’s member base, with winners notified in July and recognized in September. And did we mention? Winning organizations each receive a professional 
videography package!

Four Types of Board Members - And Why to Recruit Each, Pt. 2

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MALF is pleased to present this two-part miniseries on Friends leadership recruitment, adapted with permission from a piece originally prepared by and for Library Strategies, our office management firm. We've heard from you, our members, that this is a topic of great and increasing importance.

Click here (Part I) to learn about our first two psychographic profiles: so-called "Curtain Raisers" and "Friend Raisers."

3) Barn Raisers. Amish communities across America maintain the age-old tradition of “barn raising,” where families come together and pool their time and tools to erect a barn in the span of a day. You probably don’t have much use for a barn, but the basic principles hold true: little can get done without “elbow grease,” but many hands make for light work.

Barn Raisers are crucial to Friends and Foundations, particularly those with no paid staff to handle the “brunt” of on-the-ground duties. For instance, no book sale will get off the ground without organizers willing to sort books and coordinate volunteer shifts, and no author event can occur without a point person to oversee logistics.

If your board of directors is light on Barn Raisers, reconsider your nomination criteria with this need in mind. The archetypal “Friend Raiser” may have the influence to drive others to your functions, and “Curtain Raisers” the affluence to drive large donations based on their own charitable example. But, in addition to influence and affluence, consider work ethic and leadership interest when seeking and vetting candidates.

4) Consciousness Raisers. Ultimately, all your directors’ collective efforts are intended to better the library, and no public library can get by on private funding alone. For this reason – though this one may not roll off the tongue like the other three – Consciousness Raisers are arguably the most valuable psychographic profile of all.

Consciousness Raisers bring the knowledge and gumption required to lobby for the library’s continued public funding in public forums, and spearhead grassroots advocacy efforts within your community.

Dividends may not be immediate, but depending on a given director’s skill set, an hour spent in candid conversation at the office of your county commissioner might be exponentially more valuable to your cause than an hour spent directly soliciting private donations.

Remember, advocacy is essential everywhere. If you live in a small community or represent a budding nonprofit, you may be tempted to concentrate overmuch on recruiting Barn Raisers and Friend Raisers… and give Consciousness Raisers short shrift. Don’t! We know of many instances where a corps of activism-minded directors made a major impact on a small community’s public library funding levels.

Naturally, these four psychographic profiles are not mutually exclusive. In practice, for example, a Consciousness Raiser with a knack for public advocacy might also have a grassroots network they can tap as Barn Raisers or Friend Raisers. However, conceptualizing your leaders’ (and prospective leaders’) characteristics in this way will help ensure that you maintain a balanced board of directors.

Introducing 'Library Giving Day'

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Posted by jim under Fundraising, Events

Odds are, your Friends participate in Minnesota’s celebrated Give to the Max Day every fall. You probably also know about – even if you don’t fundraise around – National Friends of Libraries Week. And, if you are keyed into the giving landscape, you may also be familiar with Giving TuesdayAll three are excellent opportunities for Friends of the Library to marshal grassroots enthusiasm and needed funds for their local library. Unfortunately for us, all three “holidays” are clustered in the span of just one month late in the year – a potential recipe for donor fatigue.

Fortunately, there is a new kid on the block: Library Giving Day. Celebrated in April (in this case, Wednesday, April 10) in conjunction with National Libraries Week, Library Giving Day is a tailor-made and well-timed spring counterweight to Give to the Max Day in November.

Currently in its pilot season, Library Giving Day is the brainchild of the nationally reputed Seattle Public Library Foundation. Its stated purpose is right there in the name: to stoke increased visibility for and private donations to library- related causes, via parallel efforts in all corners of the country.   

As a means to this end, the organizers have helpfully prepared an online toolkit chock full of Library Giving Day- branded materials to get you started. These include flyer, press release, and solicitation letter templates – plus a host of logos and suggested social media post verbiage.

If you choose to participate in Library Giving Day, regardless of the forms your efforts take, please do two things to both boost your efforts and help event organizers gauge participation in this pilot year.

  • Register your library and Friends in Library Giving Day’s searchable database, so that prospective donors can more easily find you.
  • Tag all of your posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #LibraryGivingDay.   

On the fence about taking part? Watch this archived webinar.

'Minnesota Writers Directory' Now Live

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Posted by jim under Programs, Authors

One in four Evy Nordley Award candidate projects includes a Minnesota author as a keynote speaker, panelist, or sponsor. That stat alone is a compelling proof that partnership opportunities abound between Friends of the Library and the state’s grassroots literary community.


As we all know, however, brainstorming author programs and actually bringing them to fruition can be different things entirely. The Minnesota Center for the Book is endeavoring to bridge that gap with a free and first-of-its kind writers directory.

Aptly named the Minnesota Writers Directory, this interactive database allows users to ascertain, at a glance, whether a given author is available for library talks, writer workshops, special fundraisers, book club gatherings, school visits, and more. It also provides contact details for the author in question (or their booking agent or publicist, as appropriate). You can hone your search by county of residence, writing genre, target age demographic, or past accolades like a Minnesota Book Award.

Minnesota Center for the Book is a designation bestowed on The Friends of the Saint Paul Public (FSPPL) by the Library of Congress. Per federal requirements, each state contains a Center for the Book. However, Minnesota is one of only a handful of instances where the recognized organization is a nonprofit – and the only instance where a Friends group holds the distinction.

Four Types of Board Members - And Why to Recruit Each, Pt. 1

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Posted by jim under Donors, Board Recruitment

MALF is pleased to present this two-part miniseries on Friends leadership recruitment, adapted with permission from a piece originally prepared by and for Library Strategies, our office management firm. We've heard from you, our members, that this is a topic of great and increasing importance.

When a Friends or Foundation board looks for new directors, it can be tempting to prioritize deep pockets over all else. It’s an understandable impulse. After all, fundraising is a major part of our “raison d’être,” and most nonprofit boards boast an 80%+ giving rate.  

Even so, board donations alone will never sustain your organization. As you vet new directors, consider other assets candidates could bring to the table to further your mission. Specifically, don’t overlook potential directors who fit one of these four profiles.

1) Curtain Raisers. No matter how well-networked you are, odds are that you yourself do not know everyone in the community who might be receptive to aiding your organization in some big way. Whether you are seeking more large donations, new leaders to fill upcoming vacancies – or, more likely still, some combination – turn to your board’s Curtain Raisers.

Put simply, Curtain Raisers facilitate new connections; these adroit networkers are your best bet for reaching as-yet-untapped contributors. Studies have conclusively shown that in-person, one-on-one asks from a passionate personal connection are the best way to increase your fundraising and recruitment reach.

You can get the most out of your Curtain Raisers by doing two things. First, actively identify areas in which they can help. (“We are $5k short of our campaign goal. Do you know anyone who might bridge that gap for us?” “Our treasurer’s term is up next year, and we don’t have a finance person on deck to replace her. Do you know anyone?”) Second, as problems or opportunities arise, be receptive to their referrals and encourage them to reach out to strong prospects (“I might know someone who can help…”)

2) Friend Raisers. Friend Raisers (alternatively known as “Cheerleaders”) are much like Curtain Raisers in several key respects. They boast a robust network and are willing to tap into it to benefit your organization. However, whereas Curtain Raisers are invaluable in securing sizable donations or long-term commitments, Friend Raisers cast a wider net and are valuable allies in furtherance of one-off or shorter-term programming and publicity efforts.

If your Friends group or Foundation hosts special events of any kind – be they ticketed galas, free library programs, or one-off parties to celebrate a major milestone of some kind – look to your Friend Raisers. They will drum up attendants who might not otherwise have heard of your programs, and – just as critically – stoke enthusiasm among those who are within your sphere but may not have turned out otherwise.

Attending an in-library author reading, annual gala, or even a well-orchestrated used book sale represents a minimal commitment on the part of those approached. However, if you leave a positive and lasting impression, you may sow the seeds for a donation (or time commitment) at a later date.

What of the other two psychographic profiles, Barn Raisers and Consciousness Raisers? Keep your eyes peeled for our next e-newsletter!

Remembering Joan B. Larson

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Posted by jim under Obituary

MALF honors the life and memory of Joan B. Larson, who passed away February 23 at the age of 89.

Long-time library staff and supporters may remember Larson best as head of the Northern Lights Library Network – a cooperative of 280 public, school and special libraries in northern Minnesota. Under Larson's leadership, the consortium pooled valuable administrative, technological, and educational support services for the betterment of all.

However, she was also a staunch Friends leader, both at the local and state level. Larson served for a full ten years on the Minnesota Association of Library Friends board. Among other priorities, she was a driving force behind MALF’s first foray into Literary Landmarks™ – starting with the dedication of the Sinclair Lewis boyhood homestead in Sauk Centre (2013).

On top of MALF, Joan contributed her time and energy to a dizzying litany of like-minded organizations: her local Douglas County Friends and Foundation; the Minnesota Library Association (of which she was president); the Minnesota Reading Coalition; and the American Library Association / United for Libraries.

MALF named Joan as its
 'Library Friend of the Year' in 2014, and the Minnesota Library Association singled her out with a Distinguished Achievement Award in 2009. She will be missed! Family asks that, in lieu of flowers, charitable gifts be given in Joan’s name to the Douglas County Library Friends and Foundation. [Obituary]

No National Library Legislative Day (NLLD) in 2019

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Posted by jim under Advocacy

For many years running, the American Library Association has hosted its own advocacy “holiday” in Washington D.C.: the aptly named National Library Legislative Day (NLLD). ALA’s Washington Office is taking a break in 2019… on paper, anyway.
Our nation’s capital will play host to ALA’s Annual Conference from June 20-25 – just weeks after NLLD typically falls. For that reason, advocacy activities will be folded into ALA’s flagship event, which is expected to draw 25,000+ attendees.

Click here to learn more about the Conference (including scholarship opportunities), and expect NLLD proper back in 2020!

Why Just One Day? Mark Virtual Library Legislative Week!

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Posted by jim under Advocacy

Not everyone can converge on the Capitol on February 26. Work obligations, busy personal schedules, and (dare we say it) weather make it impractical. For this reason, Legislative Day organizers are orchestrating a virtual counterpart to the big event.
Virtual Library Legislative Week runs February 25 – March 1, and there are no shortage of ways to “celebrate.” MLA’s Advocacy particularly recommends the following:
1. Review (and, if desired, research further) the issues and talking points collected by MLA here. If you don’t know who represents you at the state or federal level, not to worry: just click here!
2. Draft an email. MLA has helpfully collected all Minnesota legislators’ contact information here to help make that easy. These do get read, and it can make a difference!
3. Punctuate those points by calling their offices. You will likely speak to an aide; but don’t be discouraged. Well-placed aides often have great sway with elected representatives. You can peruse a customizable sample call script here.

4. Want to cover all your bases? Give your favorite library-related bill or funding priority a quick shout out on social media. It might surprise you how many legislators are on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Helping Libraries Help Us: MN Library Legislative Day

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Posted by jim under Advocacy

Minnesota's public, academic and special libraries are supported by a network of seven "multitype" systems. Multitypes provide an array of consortial benefits to their members: cooperative purchasing powers, training opportunities galore, grant seeking assistance – and even think tanks for particularly tricky patron reference questions.
Lake so many things, multitypes are supported by a biennial legislative appropriation. Without it, they cannot be robust. Consequently, increased multitype funding at the State level (from $1.3m to $2m, to be exact) is one priority of the Minnesota Library Association’s advocacy platform for 2019.
Even in cases like this, where the sums are not astronomical, it can be difficult to score a win. State congressmen have many demands on their time – and on the State coffers. For this reason it is incumbent on us, as Friends of the Library, to share the load with organizations like MLA by voicing our support for libraries and the budget streams that keep them functioning.
February 26 marks your best opportunity all year long to do this. We hope you will join MALF and Friends from across Minnesota for Library Legislative Day at the Capitol. If you haven’t already, you can register here. Still on the fence? Read on.
In truth, Legislative Day is a two-day affair. Join us in Saint Paul on February 25 for a legislative briefing by MLA’s state lobbyist, as well as an informal meet-and-greet with legislators and aides. If so inclined, you can then cap off Day 1 with a networking dinner (sign up here).
Click here to learn more about scheduling meetings with your legislators on Tuesday, and to get the ball rolling. Between sessions, you are welcome to attend a Library Fair held on site. We guarantee you will come away knowing something new about the Minnesota library landscape!

Evy Nordley Revamp; 2019 Application Window Open!

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Posted by jim under Awards

Anyone privy to national news about Friends of the Library can attest that Minnesota stands a cut above the rest. That’s something worth celebrating. Over the past twenty years, MALF has acknowledged and publicized exemplary achievements of local Friends groups through our Evy Nordley Award.

As we gear up for this flagship program’s third decade, we are happy to roll out a new, standardized application form. Built on years of participant feedback, this new template will be of benefit to applicants in several ways.

First, in lieu of a free-form project narrative, the new Evy Nordley template breaks project description down into its constituent parts: planning, publicity, evaluation, and so on. In this way, otherwise strong applications are far less likely to be docked points for accidentally omitting some critical piece of the puzzle. Second, those categories tie directly to judging criteria and panel discussion areas, lending added transparency to the process.

As in years past, supplementary materials are welcomed. Common examples include photographs, newspaper clippings, letters from program partners or beneficiaries, and budget summaries. However, these are not required.

Remember, any Friends-supported project is eligible, provided that (1) project implementation began after January 1, 2018; and (2) either the Friends or their library was the primary beneficiary. (In other words, efforts jointly developed with or sponsored by non-Friends organizations are qualified under many circumstances.)

Common project types include special events, successful fundraisers, membership drives, and stellar advocacy campaigns – but the sky is the limit! If you have specific questions about the eligibility of a particular project, call 651-366-6492 for clarity.

All entries must be postmarked or emailed by Friday, June 21. Applicants will be notified of finalist outcomes by mid-August. Representatives from the three finalist Friends groups will be asked to give a 10-minute presentation on their project Thursday, September 19as part of the annual MLA conference (to be held this year in Prior Lake, with additional details TBA).

February 26 is Minnesota Library Legislative Day

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Posted by jim

Did you know? Every public library in Minnesota benefits from a state Office of Higher Education appropriation which earmarks funds for statewide interlibrary loan delivery (ILL). It's one of dozens of ways in which state dollars impact local library service.

Crucial services like these are easy to take for granted - but we do so at our own peril. Without continued support in the state legislature, there is no guarantee that the government will sustain libraries in this way in perpetuity. With that in mind, the Minnesota Library Association maintains a standing Legislative Committee. (You can learn more about its work here.)

This body organizes an annual Library Legislative Day at the Capitol in Saint Paul. It is perhaps our best opportunity all year round to champion the valuable work of libraries in front of an audience well positioned to safeguard library funding. MALF will be there in force – and we hope to see you there!

Mark your calendars now for Tuesday, February 26, and stay tuned for further details (including how to request specific appointments). Note that, as in years past, the event will kick off with a morning legislative briefing to get attendees up to speed on bills and other measures of import to libraries. There will also be an informational library fair on site. You can make a day of it!

Ezra Jack Keats Foundation Offers Library 'Mini-Grants'

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Posted by jim under Grants & Awards

All too often, budgetary constraints prevent our public libraries from orchestrating the creative, top-notch children’s programs that staff and patrons wish to see. Equally frustrating, while myriad grants exist to defray programming costs, most are fairly restrictive in scope and intent. Fortunately, every year, the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation offers a solution.

Named after the bestselling and Caldecott Award- winning illustrator, this Foundation offers 70 annual “mini-grants” to public libraries and schools, to put on whatever children’s program they desire. Since the Foundation’s inception, the program has awarded nearly $1,000,000 – that’s a lot of mini-grants!

Need inspiration? The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation’s recently remodeled website is chock full of replicable examples. For instance, the most recent Minnesota grantee (Beaver Lake Education Center in Maplewood) self-published a “collage homage” of a favorite Keats book, by having each classroom contribute a page in a different artistic medium (paper mache, oil paints, etc.)

Mini-grants are capped at $500. Applicants seeking consideration in 2019 should submit their materials online by March 31.
 Click here to learn more.

Please note, a Friends of the Library organization is ineligible for this program unless partnering directly with their affiliate Library. If, for whatever reason, this presents an issue for your hoped-for program, consider MALF’s own Chris D. Olson Event & Programming Grant as an alternative!

ALA Programs Office Introduces "Thinking Money"

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Posted by jim under Programming

MALF has maintained a blog since 2011. In that time, news about the American Library Association’s traveling exhibit opportunities routinely rank among our most popular posts. In light of that clear and continual interest from Friends, we are thrilled to share word about the ALA Programs Office’s newest exhibit: Thinking Money.

As the name suggests, Thinking Money aims to teach the fundamentals of financial literacy – budgeting accurately, spending responsibly, and investing wisely. ALA’s newest interactive exhibit is geared towards younger patrons, aged 7-11, in hopes of instilling those lessons early. (However, parents and other patrons are sure to learn a little something new and useful, as well.)

Comparable to past exhibits, ALA’s pre-fabricated displays require 1,000 square feet of exhibit space.

Each regional co-host will display Thinking Money for a six-week period sometime between late 2019 and 2021. Libraries selected as regional co-hosts are expected to organize at least four on-site programs on topics related to personal finance during their six-week window. Each will receive a $1,000 programming stipend to defray costs, as well as an expenses-paid staffer trip to Washington D.C. for orientation (during the 2019 ALA Annual Conference this June).

Think you might be interested? 
Click here to learn more, and to apply. Be sure to do so before the rapidly approaching cutoff date: Friday, February 8!